I have finally discovered the secret to really great tofu. I mean, I have no qualms with tofu. I love it and have gotten well past that old teenage habit of flinching when my mom would hide tofu in lasagna. But this weekend, I figured out how to make tofu awesome and it involves just 2 simple steps.
One, press the tofu. I know, I’ve seen recipes that say, “press tofu”, but have casually ignored that step. I thought I it was just something recipes said that I could easily bypass, which I did for years and years. A few times I have frozen tofu and then crumbled it which gives it a different texture but I didn’t think that pressing that white block of soy could have such wonderful effects. Boy, was I wrong! And the pressing was easy too….it just required a little forethought. I wrapped the tofu in a clean kitchen towel, set it on a plate and then put my heavy cast iron fry pan over top. I also put my half-full kettle on top of the pan for extra heavy pressing. Worked like a charm. When I cut up the tofu into cubes and then gave it a quick marinade in soy sauce, sesame oil, red chilis, garlic and ginger, all of that liquid got quickly sucked into the tofu. Mmmm, can you say, instant flavour?
The second step for great tofu is tossing the flavour-soaked cubes with cornstarch before frying. This magical step achieves the hard-to-come-by dream of crisp, golden tofu. Just add a bit of oil to a cast iron pan or wok and, whoop, there it is. For years and years, I have just always sauteed my tofu without coating it…trying to let it’s own glory shine. Didn’t work the way I wanted it to, but throwing the tofu into a bag with a few spoonfuls of cornstarch? Magic, I tell ya!
So what did I do with this golden, dreamy tofu? I set it aside and put some green beans that I had picked up at the market earlier that day to good use. I roasted them quickly with similar flavours that I had marinated the tofu. Meanwhile, I stir fried some red peppers and then when the beans were nice and caramelized and just starting to wrinkle, I popped that into the pan too. Next, I mixed up some spices, a couple of spoonfuls of chili-garlic sauce and half a can of light coconut milk and threw that in as well with a bit of freshly squeezed lime juice near the end. Mix in the tofu and stir to coat, serve on top of brown Jasmine rice and dinner is served.
The thing about this recipe, is that I’ve gathered it in 3 parts, so if you want to make just the tofu, go ahead and skip the rest. Take that golden fried tofu and sprinkle it with kosher salt and cayenne pepper and man, you’ve got something good. Same with the green beans. Get them roasted and wrinkly and spicy and they’ll make a lovely side dish. Or go whole hog (it doesn’t take much time-wise) and mix everything up into one tasty dish.
green beans & tofu in a thai coconut sauce
1 block organic tofu, pressed and cubed
2 T soy sauce
1 t toasted sesame oil
1 t minced ginger
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t red dried chili flakes
3 – 4 T cornstarch
2 T vegetable oil
Marinate the tofu in the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and dried chili flakes for 15 minutes or until the tofu has soaked up most of the liquid. Reserve any liquid and extra chili, garlic and ginger for the stir fry. Add tofu to a bag containing the cornstarch and toss until cubes are coated. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pan or a wok and fry up cubes until golden. Set aside.
1 lb green beans, rinsed & trimmed
2 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ginger, minced
1 t sriracha
Toss the beans in the ingredients and roast on a shallow baking tray for 15 – 20 minutes in a hot oven. Remove from oven once the beans become fragrant and have caramelized and just started to wrinkle.
1 large red pepper, sliced
2 large shallots, diced
1 T vegetable oil
2 T chili garlic sauce
1/2 can of light coconut milk
1/2 t Thai red curry paste (optional)
1 T soy sauce (plus any remaining liquid, etc. from the tofu marinade)
juice of 1/2 lime
In the same pan as you prepared the tofu, heat up oil and add in the red pepper and shallots. Once they get slightly wilted, add in green beans. Stir together the coconut milk, curry paste (if using), chili garlic sauce and soy sauce together and pour over the vegetables. Stir fry until sauce reduces and thickens, add the tofu, stirring everything until well coated with sauce. Squeeze in some lime juice, stir and then serve over rice.